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What can CT5K and Community teach us about the web?

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Image by Brian Cribb via Flickr – I looked a lot like this when I was running, really!

The CT5K
Recently a young family friend went to the hospital because of heart issues.  Not totally uncommon among American society today – but alarming, none the less.  Shortly after I caught a Facebook update which said something about CT5K – I didn’t know what the meant at first, but finally figured out he was working on a popular running program called “Couch to 5K“.

It looked pretty good and with a dark outlook on my life expectancy (I’m very over weight and have been for a long time, my Mother passed away from breast cancer in her early 50’s and my Dad of a heart attack at age 61) – not the odds you want to bet on.  So I downloaded an iPhone app to assist and started the CT5K myself this week.

Community (the real stuff – not this “made-up online stuff)
On my first day of training a family friend had stopped at our house just before I had a chance to leave – we talked for a bit, he left and I started my 9 week (which I’m gonna need at least 12 to get through) training regiment.  This friend is an avid runner, about 1/2 way into the “run” he passed me on the  road…he didn’t stop to chat, just smiled and a waved – it wasn’t “regular” wave, but it was a “I’m proud of you Tom wave” and I know he was.  It made me feel good – a nod of approval.

The second night of the program was last night.  It went a little better than the first, but the best part was when i was in cool down mode and almost home.  My neighbor from a few houses down pulled up beside me and said “Hey – are you exercising!?”  I said “Yea, is that OK?”  :)  She said yes, but you know – if you keep that up we might have to start too.  We talked for a bit longer – I cannot tell you the last time I spoke to her…it had been a while – but I felt good.  I couldn’t help but think of this as a community experience.

How does it all tie together?
I just couldn’t help but think of my work as a web designer and as a technologist and social media user/advocate.  I thought about how many hours I have spent online – building websites, reading about social media, reading about how a successful community works, thinking about new ways to engage audiences and it just basically hit me like a ton of bricks.

It’s about doing – not watching/lurking/monitoring.  We have to wade in the river – for realz!  Not read about the best practice, not buy the newest plugin or pickup the lastest book by the coolest new author – but really just do it.

So what?
It felt so comforting to know that two real people where proud of me and tat we engaged in something.  Now – I know, this same thing can happen online and virtually…but it still ties in.  You have to get off the couch and get in the game.  And when you do – you know what, its kind of fun.

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5 Essential Traits for Community Managers

5 Essential Traits for Community Managers.

Somedays I think it would be very cool to be a “community manaager”.  Other days – not so much.

Community manager is the new it position in social media. To establish hardcore communities of evangelists around your brand, you need to have one. However, what makes up a successful community manager? Every community manager must have their own style and idea about how to run things for their company, right?

It’s a good read either way.

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Dealing with Noise.

Lalalala.. I don't wanna hear this!

Image by hebedesign via Flickr

Seth Godin posted an article called “The Noise“:

If you looked at web activity, you could rightfully assume that the web consists largely of porn, gossip, Britney Spears searches, trolls, trivia, anger, complaints, flirting and self-absorption.

What I’m encouraging you to do is to constantly readjust your balance. Figure out the difference between early warnings and selfish noise. Figure out what’s loud merely because it’s angry and personal, and what’s loud because it’s important.

And most of all, get straight on who you are trying to please, and why.

This post instantly reminded me of a session I attended at the Web 2.0 conference in 2006.  It was a talk from a guy who was a community lead at Firefox and his point was that Firefox is (and has to be) very tuned into the community and what they say and think…but that doesn’t mean they try and do every thing they say.

Firefox said they have some guidelines – but first, they determine a direction and state it publicly.  Then, filter community input based on this direction.  Meaning, as Seth pointed out, “get straight who you are trying to please and why”

I think what is important about that – is every bit of feedback doesn’t result in an “all hands on deck” change in direction.  It’s first know which direction we’re headed – then judging the motive of the comment/suggestion, then applying that comment/suggestion to the plan.

I think that is what is causing me angst at work now – we seem to be reacting to each and ever comment, but nobody seems to care which direction we are heading…so we make decisions based on the comment, which causes a bit of a medusa effect – we look like a hair full of snakes, I hope we can fix it before we turn to stone.

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Forcing Community

Lontano

Image by Gian (aka UnBuZzEr) via Flickr

I get so frustrated with the corporate world when the NBT (next best thing) hits their radar.  So what’s the latest and greatest NBT – “Community” and “Social Networking”.  If you look poll these at the key words at indeed (job search/metrics site) – we find “social networking” and community are on the rise.

So, you say: “But why the frustration – this is a good thing Tom.”  I’m getting my feathers ruffled because, they (they = the corporations) are going about it like they always do.  (Think bull in a china shop.)  You cannot force yourselves into community and social networking.

These companies are pushing and shoving their way into facebook and twitter.  Then, when they get there – they treat it like that have every other marketing tool they have used in the past…large and loud.  Trust me, friend one on facebook or follow one on twitter.  I’ll guarantee within hours – your noise will go up by a bunch, because they will be blasting out the “news”.

It reminds me of the early days of SEO (search engine optimization).  The whole SEO thing started out small and ironically, a cool community.  We would all work very hard – together – to find new and interesting ways to maximize a web site’s potential.  But then things grew and pretty soon there will little SEO firms who would “guarantee” top ten, then soon after top listings on google.

So – in a sense, I’m happy that corporations are “seeing” the value of community and social networking.  Because, these things are very cool and very valuable.  I’m just so disgusted they want to do it “their” way.  They need to take it slow – see how a particular community behaves.  Understand that each community is unique and has different rules and methodology.  Then engage them, become a part of the social network.